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What Are Impact Resistant Roof Shingles?

If you’re one of the millions of American homeowners who live in an area where intense storms frequently occur, then your choice of roofing shingles plays a critical role in protecting your roof from storm damage.

Storms that bring hail, airborne debris, and high winds put your roof at risk for damage, and installing impact-resistant shingles may be a worthwhile investment.

Impact-Resistant Roof Shingles

Impact-resistant roofing shingles – sometimes referred to as “IR” roofing shingles – are designed to help minimize roof damage during a severe weather event and can potentially extend the life of your roof. You may also qualify for a homeowner’s insurance discount if you install impact-resistant roofing shingles on your home. Ask your insurance provider to learn more.

To help you make the best possible choice of roofing material for your home, here’s what you need to know about the technology and benefits of Class 4, impact-resistant roofing shingles.

Impact Resistant Shingles

Strength and Durability by Design

Non-impact resistant roofing shingles can be more easily damaged when struck by hail or other debris during a storm. Thanks to advancements in shingle design and construction, industry-leading roofing manufacturers have engineered asphalt roofing shingles that can withstand greater impact and therefore potentially reduce the amount of roof damage caused by a storm, such as hail damage.

Impact-resistant shingles are usually engineered in two ways:

  • A reinforcing, polymer-based mesh is added to the back of a standard asphalt shingle. This mesh is embedded into the asphalt and helps hold the shingle together, preventing the shingle from splitting when impacted by a hailstone or other object.

  • Rubber-like polymers, such as SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene), are added to the asphalt composition. The integration of the SBS polymer blend with the asphalt produces a rubberizing effect, creating a shingle that is more flexible and more capable of recovering from hail impact.

How Do Roofing Shingles Qualify for a Class 4 Rating?

Back in the mid-1990s, after a series of catastrophic hailstorms across the U.S., the roofing industry developed a test to evaluate their products’ resistance to impact. This standardized test is known as the Underwriters Laboratory 2218 (UL 2218), and is also nicknamed “the steel ball test.” Based on the results of this test, UL assigns one of four ratings to a shingle, with Class 4 being the highest possible rating.

During this testing method, a steel ball is dropped from a specified height onto an installed roofing shingle several times. The shingle is then turned over and inspected for any breaks or cracks that could potentially allow water to leak through.

To receive a Class 4 rating, a roofing shingle must withstand having a 2-inch steel ball dropped multiple times from a height of 20 feet. For more perspective, if this same test is repeated on a 4-inch concrete paver, the force of the steel ball would crack the paver in half.

While Class 4 is the highest rating for impact resistance, there are also lower ratings a shingle can receive, such as Class 3 and Class 2. The difference between the ratings is that Class 3 shingles withstand a smaller steel ball dropped from a lower height, and likewise for Class 2.

Are Class 4 Roofing Shingles More Wind Resistant?

Class 4 roofing shingles do not necessarily feature a higher wind resistance. Wind ratings are a separate classification. People often talk about Class 4 roofing shingles and wind resistance together because high winds may cause debris to go airborne, impacting roofs and causing damage.

When Are Class 4, Impact-Resistant Roofing Shingles the Right Choice?

Every year, thousands of homeowners across the country suffer costly damage to their roofs during hailstorms and other extreme weather events. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Severe Storms database, 4,610 major hail events occurred in the U.S. in 2018, and these storms caused billions of dollars in damage. One insurer alone, State Farm, reported paying out more than $2.7 billion in claims related to wind and hail damage in 2018.

There are certain parts of the U.S. that are more hail-prone than others. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the five worst states for major hail events in 2018 were:

  • Texas, with 508 hail storms

  • Kansas, with 493 hail storms

  • Colorado, with 332 hail storms

  • Nebraska, with 309 hail storms

  • South Dakota, with 309 hail storms

If you live in a hail-prone region of the country, or in an area where frequent severe weather events put your roof at higher risk for damage, then you may want to seriously consider installing Class 4 roofing shingles.

Benefits of Installing Class 4 Roofing Shingles

Class 4 roofing shingles are considered to be a premium product and, therefore, may cost more than standard, non-impact resistant shingles. However, due to the various benefits of Class 4, impact-resistant shingles, the extra cost upfront may be a worthwhile investment if you live in an area where hail and windstorms frequently occur.

Class 4, impact-resistant shingles may:

  • Eliminate the need for, or reduce the frequency of, roof repairs. With shingles this tough, you can relax a bit more knowing you have given your roof its best chance at holding up against the storms. Less damage means fewer unexpected repair expenses.

  • Extend the lifespan of your roof. Your shingles are your roof’s first line of defense. A roof with intact, undamaged shingles is better protected season after season.

  • Save you money on homeowner’s insurance and premiums. Many companies offer discounts for homeowners whose roofs are covered in Class 4-rated shingles. Contact your insurance provider to learn more.

  • Prevent your insurance premiums and deductibles from increasing at renewal time. Due to the increasing costs of covering hail-prone homes, some insurance providers are passing those costs onto homeowners. Having Class 4, impact-resistant shingles installed may help you keep your existing rates and avoid future rate hikes. Contact your insurance provider to learn more.

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